In The Know: Settlement creates panel of national experts to oversee DHS reforms

by | January 5th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the settlement of a class action lawsuit over abuses in Oklahoma’s child welfare system will create a panel of three out-of-state child-welfare experts to oversee DHS reforms. You can read the full settlement agreement here. The Obama administration rejected Oklahoma’s request to shield health insurance companies from the requirement that they spend at least 80 percent of the money they collect in premiums on medical costs. OK Policy previously recommended to HHS that they deny the request, and we explained on our blog why we shouldn’t give profitable insurers a free pass to shift more costs onto consumers.

Today the OK Policy Blog discusses the problem of wage theft and how we are failing to ensure minimum wage and fair overtime policies for all workers. Boeing plans to move 800 jobs to Oklahoma City,  the majority coming from Wichita. Suggesting widespread modest improvement in the job market, unemployment in November fell in 75 of 77 state counties and in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as it did in three-quarters of U.S. cities. A wet finish to 2011 could be a boon to Oklahoma’s economy thanks to a rescued winter wheat crop.

A legislative task force on children of incarcerated parents recommended making visits and communicating with inmates easier on children, expanding community-based sentencing programs, and designating an agency to track the needs of these children. You can read the full task force report here. Residents in Paden, Boley, Okemah and Prague woke up Wednesday morning to find flyers from the Ku Klux Klan on their front yards. An audit found that a former assistant state superintendent falsified travel reimbursements over the course of three years to make it appear as though she was working.

The Tulsa World writes the tax reform task force proposal to eliminate the personal exemption and important low-income tax credits borders on shocking. The Number of the Day is the percentage of mortgages in Oklahoma that were delinquent during the 3rd quarter of 2011. In today’s Policy Note, Robert Reich traces the history of the decline of the public good in American society.

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Kasey Hughart: Oklahoma workers remain vulnerable to wage theft

by | January 4th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (3)

Kasey Hughart worked as an intern at the Oklahoma Policy Institute while attending the University of Tulsa as a Sociology major/Spanish minor.  Kasey is active in advocating for immigrant rights as the co-affiliate lead for DREAM Act Oklahoma, an official affiliate within the United We DREAM National Network. Kasey hopes to pursue a career in social work after graduate school. 

Wage theft, or an employer’s failure to pay a worker for completed labor, has emerged as a serious danger in the 21st century labor market.  According to a 2011 report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), wage theft is widespread. It is not limited to a specific industry or employer, and it is frequently deliberate.  It can take many forms, including “being paid less than the minimum wage, working off the clock without pay, getting less than time and a half for overtime hours, having tips stolen, and seeing illegal deductions taken out of paychecks.”

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In The Know: Coalition emerging to support adequate funding of public services

by | January 4th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a coalition is forming to support adequate funding of public services. As part of this effort, OK Policy is taking applications for a new outreach coordinator. Urban Tulsa Weeklyexplains how one plan to reduce income tax rates would result in a tax increase for two-thirds of Oklahomans. In case you missed it last week, OK Policy explained how a short-sighted emergency rule passed by the Insurance Commissioner and Governor makes it impossible for some babies to get health insurance in the state.

An OKC outlet mall has brought the first local branches of several retailers, causing them to begin charging sales tax for online purchases by local buyers and boosting the city’s revenue. A new kind of zoning code is aimed at revitalizing Tulsa’s Pearl District as walkable, mixed use, urban living. The city of Tulsa has failed to collect more than $460,000 in fees from downtown property owners whose assessments were meant to finance the construction of the downtown baseball park.

The Oklahoma Gazette looks at the major challenges and change for Oklahoma’s American Indian tribes in 2011. Oklahoma City Public Schools is set to release a mobile application with updates from the district in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Arabic. An Oklahoma death-row inmate will be the first person executed in the United States in 2012, barring any last-minute actions by the governor this week. Bob Waldrop shares his testimony to the Corporation Commission about the hardship an OGE utility rate increase would impose on low-income Oklahomans.

The Number of the Day is the average markup over the fair market price on a flight through the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City – one of the ten most expensive midsize airports in America. In today’s Policy Note, The New York Times calls for America to bring back boring banks.

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We're hiring (again)!

by | January 3rd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (1)

Oklahoma Policy Institute is seeking an experienced and effective outreach coordinator to lead the effort to educate Oklahomans about the need to protect our tax base and ensure adequate funding of public services.  A coalition of organizations for fair and sustainable budget and tax policies is emerging.  The outreach coordinator will play a critical role in developing the strategy for this coalition, developing and spreading the coalition’s message, expanding membership, and executing a shared agenda for achieving the coalition’s goals.

The Outreach Coordinator will be a half-time contract position (with the possibility of additional hours) based in Oklahoma City.  Click here for a full description of the position and instructions for how to apply.

Send a resume and cover letter to David Blatt, Director, Oklahoma Policy Institute at jobs@okpolicy.org by Tuesday, January 17, 2012.  Please be sure to note in the subject line of the email, Outreach Coordinator and describe your availability and salary requirements in the letter. 

In The Know: Panel proposes tax hike on poor and middle class to benefit the wealthiest

by | January 3rd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the tax reform task force recommended more cuts to the top income tax rate, partially paid for by ending broad-based tax credits relied on by hundreds of thousands of low and moderate income Oklahomans. The latest Census numbers show that the income gap between whites and non-whites in Oklahoma has grown. OK Policy previously released a fact sheet on the black-white unemployment gap, which is a major contributor to the income gap. Two Oklahoma centers for the developmentally disabled are preparing to close down because the state does not have money to repair the aging facilities.

The Tulsa Initiative Blog examines how we can move from good child care to quality early learning. $20 million in federal roads funds are at risk because Oklahoma has not complied with new safety requirements for commercial truck drivers. A study sponsored by Oklahoma and Kansas has developed a plan for expanding passenger rail service to Kansas City. House and Senate Appropriations Chairs said repairs to the Capitol building would be first in line for a bond issue this year, but they would only favor it if it went to a vote of the people.

Incidents of suicide in Tulsa have reached a record high. The DHS Commission will meet Wednesday to discuss amendments to DHS’ settlement over foster care abuses made by the Governor and legislative leaders. The nomination of Oklahoma City Assistant U.S. Attorney Arvo Mikkanen to a federal judgeship appears to be dead after the Senate refused to act. The Tulsa World discussed two good arguments for collecting online sales taxes.

The Number of the Day is the expected amount of revenue that will be collected through the state’s personal income tax next year. In today’s Policy Note, Stateline examines the new approach by the Obama administration to give states more flexibility in defining “essential benefits” that must be covered by insurance under the new health care law.

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Task Force proposes tax hike on poor and middle class to benefit the wealthiest

by | December 30th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (5)

This afternoon, the Senate Task Force on Comprehensive Tax Reform released its final report. The most significant recommendation is to make further cuts to the top rate and replace that revenue by ending numerous tax credits. Almost two-thirds of the tax benefits targeted for elimination do not go to special interests or favored industries, but to hundreds of thousands of taxpayers below a certain income level in order to offset regressive sales and property taxes. They would also end the personal exemption, which reduces the tax liability for every household in Oklahoma.

This proposal is a bad deal for hardworking Oklahomans. Doing away with broad-based tax benefits like the personal exemption, earned income tax credit, and sales tax relief credit in exchange for a cut in the top income tax rate would actually increase taxes for a majority of Oklahomans. This would hit hardest the poor and middle class families who are struggling most to make ends meet in a tough economy.

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Upcoming Event: Benchmarking Asset Development in Fighting Poverty, January 12th

by | December 30th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security, Poverty, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

Assets mean economic security.  Yet impoverished families frequently lack the means to build assets.  Some are even sanctioned by public assistance programs from accumulating the wealth they need to escape poverty.  Oklahoma earned a “C” grade from the Corporation for Enterprise Development in a national report ranking states on opportunities for wealth creation and protection, particularly for low-income residents.  That same report says 23 percent of Oklahoma households are asset poor, lacking sufficient net worth to subsist at the poverty level for three months if their income was disrupted.

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Growing disconnect between budget politics and reality

by | December 29th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

Last week we reported that next year’s revenues are expected to be 7 percent below their levels of six years ago (FY ’07), even though costs are higher due to inflation, population growth, and increased caseloads

Elsewhere, people seem to have read a different budget estimate than the one we saw. Two elements of the discussion show a growing disconnect between Oklahoma’s budgetary politics and reality.

First, Governor Mary Fallin and many others continue to advocate for reduction or elimination of the state income tax. A closer look at the budget shows that, of the $400 million forecast revenue growth from FY ’11 to FY ’13, fully  half comes from the income tax. Overall, the income tax is expected to provide $2.5 billion next year for General Revenue, the HB 1017 Education Reform Fund, and the ROADS Fund, which has helped restore the worst of our roads and bridges. Cutting this vital revenue support makes no budget sense. It also makes no economic sense.

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New insurance rule throws the baby out with the bathwater

by | December 28th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (24)

As the Affordable Care Act is implemented across the nation, states have taken varying approaches to making sure coverage is available for all children.  While most states have done a good job maintaining and ensuring the availability of health insurance for kids, Oklahoma has taken an enormous step backwards by changing state law to restrict coverage for newborns and babies.  This post explains the series of events leading up to a recent move by the Insurance Commissioner to pass an unprecedented and short-sighted emergency rule that makes it impossible for some babies to get health insurance in the state.

Beginning in September 2010, the Affordable Care Act prohibited new health plans from denying coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions.  In some instances, insurers withdrew from the child-only market rather than comply with the guaranteed issue rule.  It’s very important to note that this did not include policies that are sold to adults with children as dependents – just child-only policies sold on the individual market.  Such policies are often sold to parents whose employers don’t have coverage or to grandparents on Medicare who are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren.  In thirty-three states, caregivers are still able to access child-only plans.  In fact, some states had guaranteed-issue for children even before the federal health care law.

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Looking back: Our most popular blog posts of 2011

by | December 27th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Each year we try to rouse ourselves out of our post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s slumber long enough to pull together a Top 10 list of our most popular blog posts. As we said last year, if this organization, with its rich history dating all the way back to the early months of 2008, stands for anything, it stands for Tradition.  So without further ado: Our 10 blog posts that received the most hits in 2011. If you missed any of these the first time around, here’s another chance to take a look.

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